DPW staffing issues complicate wintry mix headed for SE Wisconsin

Public works crews throughout southeast Wisconsin are getting ready for a dose of wintry weather – especially when it comes to making sure your commute is safe. 

Right now, Milwaukee's DPW crews are primarily monitoring the weather forecast. Because of rain potential, any salt laid down now would just get washed away. If the storm gets bad, you might see delays in services. 

Finding the workers to do the work – is the real challenge for many DPWs in southeast Wisconsin.

"We only have so many people to do so much work that needs to occur," said Brian DeNeve, Milwaukee DPW Spokesman.

Brian DeNeve

DeNeve said the city's DPW is missing about 20% of staff. That means nearly 50 positions are open. When the snow hits, employees from other departments might have to step in.

"For example, maybe our garbage and recycling gets delayed slightly because we have to pull more of those workers because we don’t have enough operation drivers to fill the seats of snow plows," DeNeve said.

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This is a challenge DeNever said the department has been dealing with since the pandemic. 

With a wintry mess expected Friday morning, the DPW will monitor if and when additional resources will be deployed. 

"Ultimately we will use that if needed – if the storm is severe enough," DeNeve said. 

Another challenge ahead of the snow is pre-treatment. Think salting and brining – because of the potential for rain in the wintry mix.

"Having patrols out, seeing what the pavement temperatures look like, the pavement conditions and then looking to possibly scale up to do treatments after that," DeNeve said.

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Milwaukee DPW officials remind drivers to check where you park. That will help the crews clear the roads faster. And whether you are out on the roads or honking down, city officials ask for your patience.

DPW officials said last year we had a mild winter, so the staffing shortage was not a major issue. One thing the DPW has plenty of this year – salt.

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